Commons & Sense

Iā€™m Very Much An Optimist

Text: Anders Christian Madsen

Holly Fulton’s studio looks exactly like her collections. A fabulous composition of alluring objects, some of them of an Art Deco nature; others Pop Art-y and charmingly odd. Such is the world of the 33-year-old Scottish designer, who not many seasons ago stunned London Fashion Week with her animated and highly modern take on good old-fashioned glamour. “I have a lot of objects around me. It’s part of the way I live, just like I can’t imagine not putting on jewellery and lipstick every day. These things make you feel nice, whatever you’re doing. If I ever got lazy about getting dressed up, that would be a bad sign,” Holly Fulton says, her red lip-shaped earrings poking out from her bouncing blow-dry.

It’s rather an exciting time for Fulton. With 2011-2012 AW based on the passionate love affair between Coco Chanel and The Duke of Westminster, she is putting the final touches to her 2012 SS effort: a collection, which has above all been influenced by the new man in her life. “I have a new lover so I’m really vibrant and fun at the moment. It’s nice. And it does change how you work, in a good way,” she smiles, batting her eyelashes. Its more a personal approach for Fulton, who’s already made a reputation for herself quoting the fashion’s perhaps most awesome references in her press releases.

“The inspiration for 2011-2012 AW came about when I went on a fishing trip around the Duke of Westminster’s big Scottish country castle. These were supposedly the happiest days of Coco Chanel’s life, because she was in love and got to dress in men’s clothes and live a different life. There are so many classic things in CHANEL, so I thought it would be interesting to reinterpret her through that story instead. The affair ended up being expressed quite literally in the lip print, for instance,” Fulton explains. Labelled ‘triumphant’ by critics, the collection merged hand-woven Scottish tweeds with Chanel’s iconic silhouette within the Art Deco universe that’s become a Fulton trademark.

Trademarks are perhaps the most vital part of Fulton’s success. With just six show seasons behind her, she has managed to create a signature so strong you almost knew it before you knew Fulton. “I feel lucky to be where I am. Everything is going quite well. Right now feels very positive,” she says. Raised in Edinburgh in a family of “avid collectors of everything”, Fulton earned a BA in Fashion from the Edinburgh College of Art in 1999. She went on to work on LANVIN’s accessories team in Paris for some time before launching her own label and eventually taking it to London Fashion Week.

A fan of VERSACE and MOSCHINO, Fulton knows her prints. She draws her own prints by hand; a time-consuming part of the design process, but nonetheless the part she finds most enjoyable. Yet it’s her all-encompassing feel of ladylike glamour, which has made Fulton one of the biggest stars on the London fashion scene. “Someone told me I was the Scottish ROBERTO CAVALLI. Then they asked, ‘Are you alright with that?’ I was like, ‘Yes!’ I was absolutely delighted,” she exclaims. “I’m very much an optimist, and I’m a very happy person. Our work is important but I also think it should be a bit tongue-in-cheek,” Fulton says.

When it comes to her personality, she’s as much fun as you’d hope she’d be looking at her collections. When it comes to her looks, she’s every bit the dazzling power lady her work portrays. Wearing a dress covered in lips and bright red lipstick, it’s eveident what sort of lady Fulton admires. “Jeanne Moreau”, she says. “If I could be anyone I’d be Jeanne Moreau.” Not so surprisingly, the reference for her 2011 SS collection was nothing less than ‘Joan Collins goes on a cruise.’ “I say no to most celebrities who want to borrow dresses but I’d love to dress the women of the older generation, such as Joan Collins or Angelica Huston. Someone unexpected”, Fulton says.

As for the woman she designs for, Fulton says there’s nothing better than diversity: “I have a love for women, and I love nothing more than seeing my work on a variety of women as opposed to just myself and the models.” It’s namely this philosophy, which makes Fulton a fashion industry treasure. “I’ve got a CHANEL suit, which I bought from a charity shop in Edinburgh for £100. I found it and it fits like a glove. When I wear that suit people actually treat me differently, almost with more respect. That suit makes me feel so glamorous,” Fulton says, and looks up: “That’s exactly how I want women to feel when they put on something I've made.”